⟨Collection of Simplified⟩ Grammars
The Malagasy Language
G. W. Parker
G. W. PARKER.
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The language spoken by the various tribes which inhabit Madagascar was essentially a spoken language, no symbols or pictures of the nature of writing having been found, until the early part of the present century; since which time the English Missionaries, by degrees, reduced it to its present alphabetic form. The characters chosen for it were those of our own English alphabet, with the exception of the five letters c, q, u, w, x, which have no corresponding sounds in Malagasy: but some, or all, of these (especially w) seem likely to be incorporated into the Malagasy language along with foreign words which require their use.
With regard to the place which Malagasy occupies among languages, there can be no doubt at all that it belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian group, or that it seems to have the closest affinity to the Malay proper and the Eastern Polynesian; although it is still a puzzle why the Malagasy people, who are chiefly of African origin (with the exception of the Hova tribe), should use a Malay language.
The use of infixes is a feature which the Malagasy language possesses in common with other languages of the Malayo-Polynesian group; and on this subject Mr. Keane has kindly given the following valuable information:—"The infix syllable om (um, am, om) is a feature which Malagasy has in common with Khmèr (Cambojan), Javanese, Malay, Tagala (Philippine Archipelago), and, no doubt, other members of the Malayo-Polynesian family.
Ex. Khmêr: slap, dead; samlap, to kill.
Javanese: hurub, flame; humurub, to inflame.
Malay: pilih, to choose; pamilihan, choice.
Tagala: basa, to read; bumasa, to make use of reading.
Originally a prefix, as it still is in Samoan (ex. moto, unripe; momoto, to die young), this particle seems to have worked its way into the body of the word by a process of metathesis analogous to the transposition common to most languages (compare Anglo-Saxon thridda with third)."
Briefly stated, the influence of foreigners upon the Malagasy language is as follows:—
(1) The influence of the Arabs is seen in the names of the days of the week, the Hova names for the months, and in many terms connected with dress, bed, money, musical instruments, &c.
(2) The influence of the English and of the French is seen in many abstract scientific, theological, and architectural terms, and in the names of modern weapons. Above all, the Malagasy people have gained much by the reduction of their language to the condition of a written tongue, and by the translation of the Bible into Malagasy—for which benefits they are more especially indebted to the labours of the English Missionaries.
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